Subject: JP: Indonesia postpones Gusmao's visit

The Jakarta Post May 29, 2002

Indonesia postpones Gusmao's visit

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indonesia has postponed the visit of East Timor President Xanana Gusmao, the foreign affairs ministry said on Tuesday.

"We consider that it would be more appropriate to receive President Gusmao in a state visit instead of in an official visit.

"For this purpose, we need more time to make preparations, and we therefore have conveyed our wish to the East Timor government to postpone the visit to a more convenient time for both parties," foreign ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa told The Jakarta Post here on Tuesday.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs received notification from East Timor on May 22 of the request for an official visit of Gusmao to President Megawati Soekarnoputri, only two days after the independence celebration of the world's youngest nation.

Indonesia replied on Tuesday afternoon notifying East Timor of the postponement.

Gusmao was slated to arrive in Indonesia on Wednesday, May 29 for a two-day visit in what would have been the new President's first visit to a foreign country, signifying the importance East Timor attaches to Indonesia.

Megawati has been under fire from the legislature over her recent East Timor visit, with House members signing a petition on Tuesday to summon Megawati to the House to explain her visit.

"We are consistent with the stance of House Commission I that had requested the President not to attend the independence celebration," member of Commission I for political and foreign affairs, Yasril Ananta Baharuddin told reporters.

"The House advised the President not to go to East Timor ... it is only natural to ask for an explanation (from Megawati)," he added.

The House steering committee is planning to submit the request to the House speakers on Thursday.

In Dili, the foreign ministry was unaware on Tuesday afternoon of the decision to postpone the visit. "We are still waiting for an answer from Jakarta (on whether the visit will go ahead)," said spokesman Domingos Savio, as reported by Agence France-Presse.

President Megawati attended East Timor's May 20 independence celebrations despite objections of the country's legislatures, as in their view the visit would only increase domestic resentment, considering that East Timor voted to separate from Indonesia.

Gusmao would have been accompanied by Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri and foreign minister Jose Ramos Horta who were to discuss, among other things, the possibility of establishing an Indonesian embassy in Dili.

In spite of Indonesia's often brutal 24-year rule in East Timor, Gusmao has repeatedly appealed to the East Timorese to bury the hatchet and focus on rebuilding their new-born country.


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